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Jon Thrower

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Improvisation Exercises

FOREWORD

This section contains improvisation games, as popularised by the television show "Whose Line is It Anyway".

They can be used in front of a live audience as entertainment, or alternatively just as bit of fun, or as a large group activity. When rehearsing a play, it's often useful to have some improvisation exercises as warm ups to use at the start of rehearsals. 

I gathered most of these from various internet sources about 10 years ago, so the original sites have long since ceased to exist. They're presented here in alphabetical order for the time being. If you have any builds on any of these, or any entirely new ones, then email them to me, and I'll include them. 

For each game / exercise / whatever I've given a difficulty rating as follows, intended to be a guide as to how good the actors / players / whatever have to be.

Easy: No problem even for relative beginners. These tend to be fairly closed scenarios, with fairly limited scope for invention. These one's aren't necessarily easy to do, they just don't require the actors to wander far off the beaten track unaided.  

Moderate: Requires a bit of improvisational ability, or at least confidence. Often the games are more open ended, and less bounded. Most of them are at this level.

Hard: Requires a degree of skill and some practice before they're likely to work. 

Monstrous: Don't say I didn't warn you.

I've also given an idea of what preparation is needed, so you can go into a rehearsal with this list, and the list of scenarios, wing it, and look like a pro. Alternatively, the preparation list gives you an idea of what you need to obtain from the audience.  

I'm using the term "actor" generically throughout to mean a male or female actor before anyone complains. 

ACTOR'S NIGHTMARE

Also known as:
Half scripted scene
Between the Lines

 

Rating:

Moderate

 

Description:
One actor reads from a script, preferably a fairly mundane text, and takes all her lines from the script. She may read from one character, or several characters, whichever allows her responses to be quicker. The reader can help the justifier by offering emotion and activity to the words. Trying hard to maintain a reality in the scene makes it the most fun.

Possible Approaches:
The reader can launch into long texts.

The justifier can ask the reader to repeat something (of course they cannot).

Accidentally reading stage directions.

The more realistic both reader and justifier attempt to make the scene, the better.

Variations:
Multiple scripts with or without an actor justifying

A scenario for the justifying actor to enact.

 

Preparation:

Finding a suitable script.

ALPHABET GAME

Rating:

Easy

 

Description:

The actors are presented with a scenario to act out. The actors must start each element  of dialogue with a new letter from the alphabet. For example the first actor must begin their sentence with A, and the second actor  must start with B and so on...

Possible Approaches:

Actors should emphasise the word that starts with the letter. 

Activity is helpful, as it allows the scene to progress independent of words. This game ceases to be a challenge rapidly.

Onomatopeia (sound effects instead of words), for example the "Ding-dong" of a doorbell for D.

Variations:
Starting at Z and ending at A. 

Starting and ending at a  letter provided by the audience.

Alphabet with a random extra person: Add a third person who does not have the alphabet constraint.

 

Preparation:

A scenario to enact.

ANIMAL CHARACTERS

Also Known As:

Zoo scene

creature characters

character endowments

the party

 

Rating:

Moderate

Description:
A party host is nominated.

Every other player in this scene will take on the traits of some kind of animal chosen by the audience. The actors do not pretend to be the given animal, but act like person would if they were that kind of animal.

Each of the characters arriving at a party, with one person nominated as the host, who then has to guess the animal. 

 

The animal types are used to give the actors character and activity to embellish the scene with. The actors should be somewhat subtle with the endowment. For example, if one is endowed with a cat personality it would be obvious to go meow, but more fun to play with your meal like a cat plays with its prey. 

 

Variations:
The type of characteristic can be varied: automobiles, kitchen appliances, emotions, movie genres, political causes. 

A scene other than a party can be used. The handle can become a game when the actors are given the endowments secretly and the audience must guess it, or the each of the other actors must guess the endowment.

 

Preparation:

None.

ARMS EXPERT

Rating:

Moderate

 

Description:
In this scene actor A will talk and supply the body for the character while player B will supply the arms for the same character.
Actor A stands with her arms at her side while player B pushes her arms through the armpits of actor A. Ideally the players will be chosen for appropriateness of size. It is ideal if the arm supplying player can hide behind the talking player. 

The scene is  in the form of a question and answer session with a third actor. The talking player is left to justify the actions of the hands that she has no control over.

Possible Approaches:
Usually come from the arms player, she can make bizarre and inexplicable gestures, or contradictory gestures, or obscene self meandering while the talking player tries to maintain the reality. The interviewer can also make life challenging for the two actors by asking for something from the player's pocket, getting her to adjust articles of clothing. Doing pushups would be the ultimate pimp for this handle.

Variations:
Arms and legs expert (you have to be close for this one), one player per arm, reversed one player per arm (i.e., a left arm on the right side and vice versa) this looks really odd.

The question and answer session can be with the audience.

 

Preparation:

A subject for the question and answer session, or a person for the actors to be.

 

BACKWARDS SCENE

Also Known As:
Rewind

reverse scene

 

Rating:

Monstrous.

 

Description:
In this scene the actors will tell a story backwards. They will not be talking backwards, or moving in reverse, but they will present the components of the scene from the 'end' to the 'beginning.' 

The actors start with an ending to a story. Then each actor must ask herself what would have happened immediately before this event and then portrays the most likely thing that would have preceded. 

 

Possible Approaches:

Actors will find themselves frequently asking themselves, "she just said...so I would have..." Very hard stuff. Keep it very simple and never talk in the future tense, that already has happened!!

Preparation:

A scenario to be played out, or an ending to work backwards from.

 

CHANGE

Also Known As:
Variations

Rating:

Moderate

 

Description:
A scene is played out as normal between two or more performers, but at any time the host (or another nominated player) can call out "change". The person in the scene who spoke the last line has to now choose another option for the line. Some simple examples are "Yes" would become "No", or "Maybe", or "I'll take the fifth". Someone declaring their job as Fishmonger would have to choose another profession, and so on.

Possible Approaches:
Change can be said many times in succession, forcing ever greater flights of fancy from the performers.

Preparation:
A scenario.

CHAIN MURDER

Also Known As:
Serial Killer

gibbering death

Chain of Fools

Rating:

Easy

 

Description:
In this scene there will be a series of murders committed. The murders will be committed in a particular place, by a particular person with a particular device. First we will send three actors offstage (where they cannot hear what is happening). [get a place, person, thing] Now the first actor must relay these three things to the second actor, and the second actor must relay these things to the third actor and so on. This will all be done in gibberish.

The intro for this game is really important. If the audience does not know what is going on it will just appear completely bizarre. Remember to leave at least one player on-stage to hear the three things otherwise the chain cannot begin. The actors must maintain the order of person-place-thing, or they are toast. It is also good to have some signal that one doesn't understand what is going on. When the device is identified it is standard is to be killed off by the device, signifying the entrance of the next player. Once it is over, recap what each player thought they had perceived.

Variations:
Put a time limit on each actor (90 seconds is about right).

 

COUNTING WORDS


Rating:

Moderate

 

Description:
Each of the players in this game is  assigned a number between 1 and 10. Each sentence that the player speaks must contain that given number of words.
The players must keep track of every word that they speak. If a player is assigned the number 3 she must have 3 words in every sentence. "No I won't", "No, no, no" would be the limits of all her sentences. Players that must must speak in 10 word sentences become rather talkative characters. This is a good listening game. If the other players just wait for a player that is a word or two short, there is tremendous pay-off.

Possible Approaches:
The one word player is asked to explain herself, or give directions. The 10 word player is asked to be concise, or just answer yes/no.

Variations:
All players have the same sentence length and that changes throughout the scene. Players must decrease, or increase, the sentence count throughout the scene.

 

Preparation:

A scenario

 

DAY IN THE LIFE

 

Rating:

Hard.


Description:

An audience member is asked to describe a day in their life.

The actors in the scene simply portray all the points that were made by the audience member in their scene. It is important to include them all. The audience is listening. 

 

Possible Approaches:
Try to get a real day that happened to the person. Sometimes the more mundane, the better.

It is nice to make the audience member the hero (or at least a good person) in the scene.
Hugely exaggerate the importance of the mundane events.

 

Variations:
The actors can pick up the story where the audience member's story has left off.

A number of mundane events are taken from a number of different audience members.

 

Preparation:

None

 

DIE GAME


Also Known As:
Make a story

Pointer

Directed story

Three-way-monologue

Rating:

Moderate

 

Description:
In this game all the players on stage will be telling a story. Each player is responsible for the story while the director is pointing at them. When the director switches from one player to another, the other player must pick up the story without stuttering, repeating words, or making grammatical errors. If any of the players makes such an error the audience should yell DIE!!

Possible Approaches:

The players should tell a story through action, and not waste time having the character thinking about things. 

The director should change from player to player slowly at first, allowing a sensical story to build. As the game goes on she can switch from one player to another faster and faster.
The director can do silly things, like breaking off the player in mid-word. Pointing at two players simultaneously.

Variations:
Elimination Die: Each player that makes a mistake is eliminated until only one player is left. 

Theatrical Die: After making a mistake the player acts out a death on stage. 

Make a story: Same thing with no die or elimination. 

Genre Story: Each player is given a different genre and continues to tell the same story through that genre. Genre story can be emotional story, appliance story, occupation story, etc.

Three-Way-Monologue - three actors tell the same story from three different points of view, and step back / forward to indicate they have finished a part of it. Creates a more controlled / serious outcome, like cutting between three different interviews on the same subject. 

 

Preparation:

Usually, just an opening line for the story is enough. Can be merged with Day in the Life, or another story game if you're feeling ambitious.

 

DO RUN RUN RUN

 

Rating:

Hard


Description:
Several players line up and start to sing in the following pattern. A, A, B, B, B. This is best explained by example: 
Player one, "I went to the store to buy some pop." All players, "a do run run run a do run run." Player two, "And on the way there I met a cop." All players, "a do run run run a do run run." Player three, "hey and that cop was lean." Player four, "hey she started to make a scene." Player one, "hey and she was really mean." All players, "a do run run run a do run run." Player two, "the cop pushed me up against her car." All players, "a do run run run a do run run." Player three, "that's how I got this terrible scar."
And so on.. Until the story is told. There are all kinds of variations to this. It's format is particularly forgiving of those who cannot sing all that well. It is recommended that the player doing the solo line step forward from the line of players.

Variations:
It can be turned into a die type game, where the players that slip up are dropped from the line. There are an infinite number of variations that can be made to the song itself.

 

Preparation:

None (though you can give a subject for the song, if you like)

 

DUBBING


Also Known As:

Foreign Film

 

Rating:

Moderate

 

Description:
In this scene there are  two actors offstage and two actors onstage. Actor A's (onstage) voice will be supplied by actor B (offstage) and actor C's (onstage) voice will be supplied by actor D [offstage). However the actors supplying the voices (B and D) will not be able to see what the other two actors (A and C) are doing
The actors supplying the voices must make distinctly different voices. It is also important that the actors that are being dubbed move their mouths like they are speaking when the dubbers are talking. It is important to have an activity and to justify what is being said through activity.

Possible Approaches:
The moving actors should make large obvious physical choices that they must justify when their dubber makes a contradicting statement. A chainsaw becomes an ax, a hug becomes a punch and so on.
For variations where the dubbers can see the actors, the actors need to make solid physical offers for the translators and audience to work off of. It helps for actors to think of what they are actually saying in this circumstances.
For translation variations, there are a few standard gags:

The standard translation gag is making a really long gibberish sentence and translating it to one english word, or vice versa. Translators can also struggle for the correct english word, caught in gibberish idioms. Translators can also refuse to translate things that are too crude in english, gibberish censoring.

 

Variations:
Straight dubbing: the dubbing players can watch the actors. 

Cross dubbing: the two actors on stage dub each other's words (very hard).

Three-way dubbing: actor one dubs actor two and actor two dubs actor three and actor three dubs actor one.

Foreign FIlm: The players that are act out the scene in a non existent language, and the dubbers translate. This can be done blind, or with the translaters able to see.

Poet's Corner: The translation is that of a foreign poet, who actually talks gibberish, but uses emotion and gesture to communicate an idea. 

 

Preparation:

A Scenario

 

EMOTIONAL BOUNDARIES


Rating:

Moderate

 

Description:
The stage is divided into three zones. Each zone will be designated with a particular emotion, as the players move about on the stage they must adopt the emotion of the zone that they are in.

Possible Approaches:

The players should use the entire stage to explore each of the emotional areas. The transitions are best done crisply as the player crosses the boundary. 

The host setting the scene up should make sure that the emotions are contrasting and simple.
Rapidly crossing the stage and altering every word in the sentence with the emotion. 

Straddling the boundary and combining emotions.

Variations:
More than three zones

Emotions can be assigned to furniture and props. 

There are genre variations where each zone is assigned a different category of another type (see also Animal Characters for similar ideas)

 

Preparation:

Identifying zones and emotions.

 

EMOTIONAL TRANSFER


Rating:

Moderate (though hard to do well)

 

Description:
Two actors are given contrasting emotions. At some point in the scene they must switch the emotions from one player to the other.

 

Possible Approaches
The emotions must be contrasting (love, and hate), and the players must make strong choices in the beginning of the scene. The transition is best appreciated if it is done subtly and the transfer is somehow justified within the context of the scene.

Variations:
This can be done with status (high versus low), and the players must make a switch in status within the scene. Any of the endowments can be switched: political beliefs, animals, appliances, vehicle types, etc.

 

Preparation:

Scenario and emotions

 

ENTRANCES AND EXITS

 

Rating:

Moderate

 

Description:

In this game each player is assigned some word that might come up in casual conversation. Whenever that word is spoken by another player in the scene they must enter or exit. If the player's word is spoken and she is offstage, she must immediately come onstage and justify her entrance. If her word is spoken while onstage she must immediately exit and justify her exit. 
If the players notice that someone has not heard their word, they should repeat it. Each player must also remember each of the other players' words. This scene can get quite chaotic. Remember to build a story and justify the entrances and exits. 

Note: Saying your own word does not count.

Possible Approaches:
Assigning someone a conjunction like: and, but or yes. 

Alternatively, putting someone in a situation where they have to leave: firing them, kicking them out the house, or leaving them in a burning room, then don't give them their exit word. 

Repeating someone's word rapidly giving them no choice, but to ping pong in and out of the scene.

Give people the words in secret, and let them figure out who has which word.

Give two people the same word.

Preparation:

Words to enter and exit on.

A scenario to act out

ENVIRONMENT SCENE

Also known as:
The Living Set

Rating:

Easy

 

Description:
In this exercise, the participants will create an environment of your suggestion. The players rapidly fill the stage, each one taking up the role of another essential part of the suggested environment. The players should offer themselves as props: trees, tables, rocks. They can supply sound effects as well. 

Variations:
Once one environment is set the players are given another one, and they must transform into the new environment without leaving the stage.
No environment is given, and the players take their cues off those already in the scene.

 

Preparation:

The name of an environment.

 

FAIRY TALE IN A MINUTE

Also Known As:
Precis

Movie In A Minute

Study Note Fairy Tale

Instant Story

Instant Fairy Tale

Modern Fairy Tale

Four Minute Fairy Tale

Rating:

Hard

 

Description::
The Actors attempt to to present a well known story in under 1 minute (or an alternative defined time limit), including the full story, with the main characters.

It's a good idea to recap the story first!

 

Possible Approaches:

Show the time countdown to the audience.

 

Variations:
Movie in a minute is another variation, but this can be done with virtually anything.

For less experienced players (and without an audience) some preparation time can be allowed.

Modern Fairy Tale: The actors combine a well known fairy tale with a genre of movie. Combine any known story with a contrasting genre: science fiction, war movie, love story, shakespeare, triple-X, political party, occupation, etc.

FIRST AND LAST SENTENCE

Also known as:
Beginning and End

 

Rating:

Hard


Description
The only constraints on this scene will be the first sentence and the last sentence of the scene are chosen by the audience. [get a first sentence and a last sentence from the audience] One of the actors must state the first sentence as the first words out of her mouth. 

 

Possible Approaches:

Feel free to set up the environment without speaking. Don't be afraid to build into the first sentence. 

The last sentence of the scene is a bit harder to manage, and it is much better appreciated by the audience. The players must remember that they have only been asked to do two things in the scene, and you are expected to do them.
Just say the two sentences and end the scene!

Variations:
First and last word can be used instead. There can also be a middle sentence, or word, that must appear at any time between the first and last sentence/word.

 

FREEZE

Rating:

Easy

 

Description:
Two actors start a scene. At any time during the scene an actor off stage can yell freeze! The actors must immediately freeze in position. The player that yelled freeze must assume the exact position of one of the actors and initiate a whole new scene starting in that position.


Possible Approaches:

The best effect is had when the scene is frozen on an interesting position, so it is important to change position when the action restarts. 

Assume the new position quickly!! Sometimes simply a position change is all that is needed for the next freeze. 

Leaving someone in a compromising position and quickly freezing the scene before she can move out. 

Variations:
Start positions could be defined by other players, or even the audience moving people into position. The actors then have to improvise a scene from these start positions. 

Blind freeze: The players line up in order of who is going to take the next position. The next player in faces the back and cannot see the scene as it is progressing. This makes it easier for some actors. 

Environment freeze: Once the new player has assumed the position of the tagged out player, the audience suggests an environment to base the scene on. 

Audience freeze: the audience is responsible for yelling freeze and not the players or the host.

See also Space Jump for a more demanding version.

Reverse Freeze: Start off with a full scene involving everyone, and then each actor shouts freeze and leaves, and those remaining have to start a new scene from that position.

 

Preparation:

A starting scenario.

 

GENRES

 

Rating:

Moderate

 

Description:

The actors are given a scenario to act out. Just as they're getting into it, the host interrupts them and provides them with an entirely different genre. The actors continue the scene, but now in the new genre. Repeat

 

Preparation:

Some genres

A scenario

HERE COMES JACK

Rating: 

Easy 

 

Description:

Two actors are waiting for a third to arrive, and have a conversation in which they talk about him or her, describing his various features and tendencies. They then say "Here comes Jack (or Jill)" The third actor then enters, and has to play the part of the character they've just described.

 

Preparation:

None

MACHINE

Rating: 

Easy 

 

Description:
The actors create the parts of an imaginary machine. Each actor enters, one after the other, and offers a repetitive motion and noise to the machine, making it fit in with the others as far as possible. The last actor to join the machine names it before they contribute their action and noise.


Possible Approaches:

Don't do anything that you cannot physically maintain, or causes physical pain!

The host can speed the machine up, and slow it down. You can also make one part/player malfunction. The machine can be destroyed by speeding up into chaos, or slowing down into a frozen heap.

Variations:
This machine can be frozen and used to start a scene (maybe as the starting point for "Freeze!"

The audience can suggest a name for the machine before you start, and then the actors use this as a guide in producing the machine.

 

Preparation:

None.

 

MADRIGAL

 

Rating: 

Monstrous 

 

Description:
A madrigal is any song using an unaccompanied voice.

The actors  sing a story based on a suggestion from the audience.
The first player starts to harmonize the first line of the story. After she repeats this this line twice, with some harmonization, the next player harmonizes the next line in the story. The first player continues to repeat her line as a background harmony. Once the second player has repeated her line twice, the third player comes forward and adds another line in harmony to the story. The first and second players continue their own lines as background while the third player repeats her line twice. 

At this point there is player one repeating her first line as a background, player two repeating her line (different from player one's) as a background, and player three with a brand new line. Once player three has repeated her line twice, the first player harmonizes a new line while players two and three repeat their lines as background. This cycle continues until the story is told. 

Variations:
Can be set up as a Gregorian chant in a monastery.

 

Preparation:

A subject for the story.

 

MAKE A SONG

 

Rating:

Hard

 

Description:
One of the players (or a group of players) are going to make a song about a topic suggested by the audience. The style can also be suggested by the audience.

Requires a musical improviser to provide backing music.

Preparation:

A subject for the song.

 

MOVING PEOPLE

 

Rating: 

Easy 


Description:
The players in this scene will be unable to move. For some reason they must have helpers controlling there bodies to move around in the scene. The players can speak and will supply dialogue for the scene, but someone else will supply their motion (this can be other actors, or even audience members if you're particularly brave) 

Move the players by pushing on the body part you want to move. Don't force their backs or necks, and be careful pulling on their clothing
The actors then act out a particular scenario that requires movement.


Possible Approaches:

All the following can make this more interesting: Dancing, hugging, kissing, not being able to see things because one is not looking the right way.

Variations:
One player can be responsible for moving all the players on the stage. The more players the more work.

 

Preparation:

Scenario.

 

NO LAUGHS


Also Known As:
Serious switch

Dead Serious

Rating: 

Easy 


Description
In this scene the players will not actively attempt to create any audience response. If at any time a player makes you all laugh then they are removed from the scene and replaced by another 'more serious' player.

Possible Approaches:
The players simply generate a scene as they would any other. At some point the audience will find some element amusing and the actor responsible will be switched out. As the game progresses, actors will be replaced by people who are  the wrong sex, wrong height, or wrong race, and so the scene gets more and more ridiculous as it goes on.

 

Variations:

Start with a very serious scenario. Oddly, things seem to go downhill faster.

Can be combined with Actor's Nightmare to give a faster start.

 

Preparation:

Scenario.

 

OPTIONS

Also Known As:

Umm er scene

Shopping list

Roller-coaster

What happens next?

Rating: 

Moderate 

 

Description:
The actors begin acting out a scene, and at some point the host shouts for them to "freeze". You then ask the audience for a vital piece of information from the story, to be included at this point. The actors then unfreeze, and have to incorporate this suggestion into the story.

 

Possible Approaches:

The aim (as with so many of these) is to keep the scene sane and on track while rationalizing the random inputs that are given. The ask fors can be words, emotions, secrets, props, physical ailments, genres, etc..

Variations:
Shopping List: The list of suggested items to be incorporated can be collected before the scene, to be called out by the host (known as "shopping list".)

Roller Coaster: The list of "items" are all in the same category (such as genres)

Umm Err scene: The actors ask for a suggestion, by pausing and saying um..err, and the audience suggests the player's dialogue.

What Happens Next?: the players are frozen and the audience is asked what happens next in the scene.

 

Preparation:

Scenario, and list of inputs.

 

PAPER CHASE

Also Known As:
Sentences

Papers

Rating: 

Moderate 


Description:
The actors are provided with pieces of paper with sentences written on them to put in their pockets, or place around the stage. The actors then present a scene as normal, but periodically read a line of dialogue off one of the pieces of paper, selected at random, and have to incorporate it into the scene.


Variations:
Activities can be substituted for sentences.

 

Preparation:

Spending hours writing out little bits of paper that the actors then claim they can't read. Alternatively, get the audience to write them out for you.

THE PUN GAME

Also Known As:

Categories

Rating:

Moderate.

 

Description:

In this game each actor is given  category of things to reference (for example, cars, countries, cutlery, vegetables, book titles etc.). Categories can be obtained from the audience. The actors then act out a given scenario. During the scene the actor must reference her assigned category as often as possible. For instance if her category were cars she could reference cars by puns, analogies or direct references.

Variations:
This can be turned into a competitive game where the players must list off all the things from a single category. The first one to a given score, or the highest scorer after a fixed time is the winner.

 

Preparation:

A scenario, and one or more categories.

REPAIR SHOP

Also Known As:
Crime endowment

Home Late

Santa

Who am I?

Celebrity Who

Description:
An actor is asked to leave the stage, and an electronic or mechanical device is suggested by the audience. The returning actor then has to guess what the device is that they're returning from clues given to them by the owner of the repair shop. The more bizarre the device, the longer this will go on for!

 

Variations:

Approximately one million and one. 

For example, the player offstage has committed a crime, but can't remember what the crime is. If her interrogators can let her know what the crime is she will confess. 

In  home late, a youngster is explaining to her adults why she has come home so late. The host can get any items she wants, although the confessor (person being endowed) has to know the order of the items. 

The Santa scene is usually Santa Claus trying to tell a child what she wants for Christmas (usually one item). 

The audience can be used to provide enthusiastic cheering to help indicate that the guessing actor is on the right track.

Celebrity Who: Two performers are sent out of the room. Another performer is the host of a Talk Show and get
the names of two famous persons from the audience (living or dead,
fictional or real). The host interviews the two actors, dropping hints. The two performers then have to work out who they are

 

Preparation:

The name of a weird device for repair.

 

SCENE THREE WAYS


Also Known As:
Once more with feeling

Play it again sam

Description:
The actors are given a scene to enact, with a simple environment, and fairly simple relationships (it could even be a summary of a scene from a film or even a play under rehearsal). The actors play this out briefly, in a fairly neutral fashion.

The scene is then played twice more, the second and third versions  will be performed in different genres.

Variations:
There is no limit to the number of times that the scene can be replayed, and there is no limit to the choice of options to change.

 

Preparation:

A Scenario.

 

SOLILOQUIES

 

Also Known as:

Subconscious

 

Rating:

Hard


Description:
More of a rehearsal tool than a game. The actors breaking out into a soliloquy whenever they feel like it, and whenever you least expect it. In the soliloquy, the player reveals innermost information about herself with no intent of addressing a particular listener. Ideally a soliloquy will both advance the scene and develop the character. The other actors can use this information in developing the scene. 

 

Variations:

The soliloquy is presented by an alternative actor, adding a narration to an existing scene, that the other actors must then interpret.

 

Preparation:

A scenario

SOUND EFFECTS

Also Known As:

Technical errors scene

Tech Box

Booth Hell


Rating:

Moderate

 

Description:
During this scene the sound effects person will insert sounds throughout the scene that the actors must justify appropriately.
The actors start out and continue, a regular scene. At any time the sound effects tech can insert random sounds, and usually ones that have nothing to do with the context of the scene. The actors do best by justifying the noises in the context of the scene.

Possible Approaches:
Keep using the same sound effect over and over again. 

Keep using the same justification for everything over and over again.

 

Variations:

The audience provide the sound effects for a scene.

 

Preparation:

A scenario to play out.

 

SPACE JUMP


Also Known As:
Ascending freeze

 

Rating:

Hard


Introduction:
This game consists of a series of different scenes. The first scene has two actors, the next has three, and so on. At some
point during each scene, the next actor yells "freeze", and jumps in and justifies the positions and starts a new scene. This will continues until all the actors are in the scene. At that point the players leave in the reverse order that they came in. As the players leave you see all the previous scenes taking place as if time had passed, and justifying their new physical positions. 

Description:
The difference between this and a normal game of freeze is that the actor  must justify the positions of everyone in the scene when they start AND  remember where in the order your scene is. The player that started the scene (i.e., the third player in the three person scene) is responsible for reminding all the others which scene it is when the game returns to their scene. A trick is to remember the scene that follows yours. Then you will be cued that when that player leaves, your scene is next, and you will deftly remind all the other players.
When the scene includes all the actors, the fifth actor must find some reason to exit the scene, preferably within the context of the scene. Then the fourth scene starts, and the fourth actor finds a reason to leave, and the third scene starts and so on. 

Variations:
Described above is the ascending/descending version. There is another version where the scene numbers are randomly called out and the players jump on and off as cued. When each scene returns it will be advanced in time, and the positions must be justified.

The starting position can be provided by another actor or the audience in the opening scene.

 

SPEAK IN ONE VOICE


Also Known As:
One brain

One voice expert

The slow family

Rating:

Moderate


Description:
In this scene several actors huddle together and speak at the same time as if sharing a mouth. No individual should lead, they should speak "as one voice".

Variations:
Most often the players are presented statically and interviewed as some kind of expert. The interviewer usually speaks in only her voice. 

Groups of players speaking in one voice can interact as well (this is the slow family game)

 

Preparation:

A Subject for the Interview, or a subject for the one voice to be an expert on.

 

SPLIT ENVIRONMENTS

 

Also Known as:
Shared worlds

Rating:

Hard


Description:
Two actors are given the same scenario to enact, however each player is given a different environment, and must respond to the actions of the other as if they were in that environment. For example, one could believe they are in a laundrette, while the other could believe they are in the ops room of a warship. 


Preparation:

Two contrasting environments.

 

STAGE DIRECTIONS


Rating:

Moderate.

 

Description:
In this scene each player will be supplying the other players actions in the form of stage directions. Each time a player supplies a line the other player in the scene will supply that player's action in the form of a stage direction.

This scene is good for ensuring that players that don't give themselves activities on stage are endowed with them. The usual form goes like this. Player one says, "hello there Jill." Player two immediately follows with, "she said running her fingers through her hair." Player one then runs her fingers through her hair in response to the stage direction. This continues throughout the entire scene. There is obvious potential for massive pimping. "she said doing an interpretive dance." If that becomes necessary in a scene then try and leave it until the end.

Possible Approaches:

Absurd stage directions, endowing physical traits, or emotions.

Variations:
Stage direction are given by players offstage, who may or may not be able to see the players onstage.

Preparation:

A Scenario

 

STUNT DOUBLES

 

Also Known As:
Danger scene

 

Rating:

Moderate.


Description:
The actors will act out a simple scene, as normal, but whenever any physical action is required, or the actors or host determine that things are getting too dangerous, the actors are substituted for stunt doubles (for example, this could happen if an actor has to pick something up, open a newspaper etc.) Under the stunt doubles, this activity becomes incredibly dangerous, and the stunt double will usually sustain some terrible injury. The normal actors then return and resume the scene.

 

Possible Approaches:

Some players can do the action in slow motion. 

 

Variations:

Get the audience to join in calling for the stunt doubles.

 

Preparation:

A scenario. As mundane as possible.

 

SWITCH

 

Also Known As:

Exit stage right

Understudies

Switch Characters
All Change

 

Rating:

Moderate.


Description: 

The actors perform a normal scene. When the word switch is yelled all the players must change characters by
replacing the character to their immediate right. The right most player will exit stage right.

Preparation:

A Scenario.

 

TOUCH TO TALK


Rating:

Moderate


Description:
The only time that actors are allowed to talk during this game is when they are physically touching each other. The challenge here is finding justifiable reasons for making contact in this way.

Variations:
Touch to shut up. The players have to talk constantly until they make physical contact somehow.

 

Preparation:

A scenario.

 

TYPEWRITER


Also Known As:
Word processing

Author sketch

Rating:

Moderate


Description:
In this scene one actor mimes typing out a story, and speaks it out as they go along. As characters are introduced players will join in and act out the story. Occasionally they will add dialogue to the story. As the scene progresses the players acting out the
scene share more and more with the typist that drives the scene. Ideally they will share the advancement of the story, switching from the typist to the players when she slows, and back again once the players slow.

Variations:
This can be played as a switch game where everyone has a chance to be a typist.

 

Preparation:

A subject for the story.

 

VIDEO PLAYER


Also Known As:
VCR

forwards/reverse

Rewind / Fast Forward

Rating:

Moderate


Description:
The players will carry out a scene just like any other. Someone [host, audience, off-stage player] has a remote controlthat  can be used to fast forward the scene, reverse the scene, slow down the scene, or even worse.

Possible Approaches:

Everyone must listen closely for the call to alter the tape. Fast forward/reverse is usually represented by frenetic action that ends when the tape is returned to play. When the tape is on play again the scene proceeds in the in future, or repeats itself. Try to facilitate the request as best as possible, do slow motion, repeat the line over and over. 
Eject ends the scene.

Variations:
Forward/reverse. This is just like a VCR except that the only directions are forward and reverse. The players must step through the actions in reverse order, and then repeat them once forward restarts. Very hard.

 

WORD FOR WORD

 

Also Known As:

One Word at a time, Word at a time, Sentence at a time, word at a time expert

 

Rating:

Easy

 

Description:

The actors tell a story, write a letter, or answer interview questions, replying with one word each then moving onto the next actor. 

 

Possible Approaches

Try to get the speed as near to conversational speed as possible.

 

Variations:

Have two "characters" in a scene, each represented by more than one actor.

Construct a story with people allowed to contribute a sentence each.

 

Preparation:

A subject for the letter or interview.

 

WORLD'S WORST

 

Rating:

Easy

 

Description:

The Actors line up and step forward with acted out examples of the World's Worst example of a particular category. (e.g. hairdresser, person to be stuck in a lift with etc.) This is a quick fire exercise with the emphasis on ideas and comedy rather than ability to hold a scene together.

 

Preparation:

A category

 

 

 

Jon Thrower © 2008
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